Traverse City salon faces discrimination charge over anti-trans social posts
- Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City charged with discrimination for social media posts
- The since-deleted posts said the salon would not serve people who don’t identity as either male or female
- The state’s Department of Civil Rights said the advertisements were unlawful and violate the Elliott- Larsen Civil Rights Act
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed on Wednesday a discrimination charge against Studio 8 Hair Lab in Traverse City for threatening to withhold services from transgender people.
The salon could be subject to suspension or repeal of its business licenses by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission following a hearing by an administrative judge.
In July, the salon drew national attention for posting on social media that it would not serve clients who don’t identify as either male or female.
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Christine Geiger, owner of the salon, wrote on a since-deleted Facebook post that people who identify as “anything other than a man/woman” should “seek services at a local pet groomer.”
The salon’s private Instagram page states it is a “private CONSERVATIVE business that does not cater to woke ideologies.”
In a now deleted Facebook post, the salon wrote that those who don’t identify as “man/woman” "are not welcome at this salon. Period," USA Today reported. "Should you request to have a particular pronoun used please note we may simply refer to you as 'hey you.'"
Geiger and defenders have said she was exercising free speech, but Department of Civil Rights officials told reporters on Wednesday the case is not a First Amendment issue. Rather, the state’s anti-discrimination law clearly prohibits denying service to customers based on gender.
“This is not a complicated case. It is not a case that relies on complex legal concepts or requires expansive or convoluted arguments to explain,” said John Johnson Jr., director of the department.
Marcelina Trevino, director of enforcement for the department, told reporters “this is a case that is based on the advertisement publishing unlawful discrimination comments of a refusal to issue services.”
The department found that the social media posts violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal to publicly post advertisements stating that services will be “denied an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, or that an individual's patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable.”
In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law an amendment to law that includes sexual orientation and gender expression as a protection. The amendment won’t go into effect until 2024.
In July, Geiger told a local television station that she was taking a stand against the new legislation and that it diminishes her rights.
She filed a lawsuit on Oct. 25 in Grand Traverse County against Traverse City and three individuals who filed a complaint with the Department of Civil Rights claiming it infringes upon the salon’s right to religious freedom.
Geiger’s case prompted a rebuke from hair product manufacturer Jack Winn Pro, which announced the salon can no longer use its products.
The controversy at Studio 8 Hair Lab follows several others in Michigan in recent months about LGBTQ+ issues.
In Lapeer County, Prosecutor John Miller this year said he was considering filing charges against a local library for stocking for the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which contains graphic images. He didn’t follow through with the threat.
The same book has prompted controversies at libraries nationwide, including at Patmos Library in
Ottawa County Concerns about LBGTQ-themed books prompted voters to twice reject ballot measures to fund the library before passing a milage this month to continue operations. Voter support changed after officials agreed to print descriptions of books inside their covers.
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